Has ecommerce evolved at all?

31 Jan

Naman did a great post about how the more things change in the ecommerce space in India, how they’re going back more to what worked earlier.

Begs the question – where’s the innovation?

The offline world has many ready parallels that haven’t even started getting explored online. When I think of a purchase, a store profile/segment immediately pops into my head. Some are about VFM, some about quality, some about customer service and follow-up, some about choice, and some about “spending time in the store”! This varies by product/category. Where are those parallels online? What does a store stand for? 

Then there’s the whole “browse” experience. Doing grocery is also a distraction for a boring afternoon for some. How do I discover new stuff? How do I chance upon products I didn’t come to buy? How do I quickly compare across 2 different produts/pacjage sizes? How do I check for ingredients? Whom do I ask questions?

Of course, products that depend on touch/feel, tryouts, experience-based research are much tougher online.

Finally, the offline world offers “extras”.  A coffee outlet in store/next door. A few books to browse. Neighbours to catch up with. 

The carrots of “convenience” and “choice” aren’t strong enough. Many stores have more choice, and in the Indian context, I usually have multiple options within a 10 minute walk, and most guys deliver.

Ecommerce needs to innovate. And quick. Burning a lot of cash and hoping some sticks is way too short sighted.

What can they do?

1. Curate.Take a stand.

Take a call. Say “these are the best phones in category X” – partner with reviewers etc for this, or evolve a democratic tool/model. Take a stand for something healthy, something green, something ethical, something thta’s good value. Be visible as batting for the consumer, and making an effort for it.

2. Play Consultant.

The offline world has learned this well over the last decade. In store service and staff training has improved a lot. One tends to be a little lost when starting to look for a phone/TV/laptop/car tyre/bag/whatever. Play a friend and consultant. Include some crowdsourced wisdom if possible.

3. Get back. Stay Involved.

Get consumer feedback about products/brands they buy. What worked, what didn’t. Be seen to be concerned about the quality of various aspects of the store. Bring in experts and help for conversations, advice around big ticket purchases. “Are you using your TV optiimally?” “How do you keep the battery healthy?” “Recipes to cook healthy”.

4. Ancilliary Services

Stuff breaks, needs repair, tech support, cleaning, maintenance. Make sure you get involved in helping customer derive better value, longer.

Its too transactional right now, and that shows in the bargain hunting behaviour the consumer exhibits online. Someone’s got to change that.


Talk Business

11 Nov

I don't feel like "taking on the world" when I wake up and have had chai. I don't want to "win battles" and "annihilate the competition". I have no desire to be a "winner" who must "take it all" or be "cutthroat".??

Sure I want to make a decent living, build a brand, be recognized. But I want to see win-wins, not play zero sum games. I want to feel the satisfaction that comes from having happy smiling people because of what I do.??

Is it a bad fit? Or have businesses reduced to win-lose – and are increasingly asking those who work for/with them for the same attitude?

Uncertainly Treading

25 Sep

Tis time to hunker down, put in effort into not just riding storms, but making one's presence count, and to emerge stronger for bigger battles. I guess these are the parts of entrepreneurship one learns from.

Social Net ke Side Effects

15 Aug

One thing Facebook, Twitter etc have done is to make it even more important to appear to lead an interesting life than actually leading one.

Applies to entrepreneurship, patriotism, concern-for-causes too – ?

Everyone's marketing – their lives, lifestyles, their relationships, their heartfelt causes, and of course (and maybe most??appropriately) their businesses 🙂 Its reverse-voyeurism, in a sense. And surely, our social networks can be for so much more, can they not ?

Groupon and gang : Why hyperlocal still needs solving

6 Jun

I run a small business??and have been approached by SnapDeal, Taggle and the likes. Somehow it never made any sense to me.

We're attracting folks on a certain value proposition, and ??that is not based on discounting and "cheap". On the contrary, its about a certain kind of experience and discounting as deep as these deal sites would like you to do would actually harm the brand! It tends to portray some sort of desperation, ??and calls into question the pricing vs value offered otherwise. We've also not had a very great experience with deal-hunters, and would rather stick to customers who value the whole experience instead. So we've completely avoided it.

I'm guessing this is true, as the second assessment above points out, for a lot of businesses. The deal sites are probably not batting at all for the merchants, and have a suck-them-dry approach. In the medium term, that won't work well for consumers either (I've seen some restaurants create a 'special offering' for the deal, specifically, and am very very suspicious of what they'll serve. I do not want my dinners and experiences 'discounted' along with the price.)

Let's look at what a 'good deal' is. (I started http://dealrater.in as a follow up to this thought process a while ago).??

Its something thats a very good Value-for-Money proposition. It doesn't have to be cheap, or at a discount, for it to be so. Its usually goods or services of good to great quality (remember the low end Chinese bike manufacturers trying to dump cheap bikes in India ? Never took off.) And at a fair price that keeps the VFM high. Alternatively, it could be a low impact (don't know or care much about quality…) and dirt cheap (…but at this price, who cares) offering.

What merchants need from deal sites is probably one of the following
  • Announcement and price discovery (for a new business/products). Just want a lot of people to know about it. Don't want to discount much – and in fact would like to discover price.
  • Tryouts (for new businesses or offerings). The messaging is about "hey you like this category, so we thought wee'd invite you to try this out". Its almost like a select/invited/focus group the site needs to manage. Haven't heard anything like this at all.
  • Stock Clearance. ??Have a lot of stuff thats last season/end of line/want to get rid of. Straightforward. Let the consumers know transparently that this is the case. And very very clearly price below real street prices.
  • Last Minute Inventory. Similar to Stock Clearance, but very different in how it'll be done, who it targets etc. The need is to connect those who're potentially looking for that inventory, or may hop on at the 11th hour if the price is right, and the unsold, perishable inventory. at Linger, we sometimes have this need.
None of the deal sites seem to be thinking in terms of what they're solving, really. Everyone seems to be addressing the same set of lowest common denominators, and throwing a lot of money/sales effort at it.??

There will be a shakeout and a deals-2.0 pretty soon!

[ Plug: If you're a deal site looking to change things, talk to me. I'm a Product Strategy/"Storytelling" guy NOT looking at fulltime jobs and help folks with executing this kind of thought process. I'd love to effect deals 2.0 🙂 ]

Size, profitability etc : How much do you need ?

23 May

If agility, nimbleness are important in the marketplace, and if smaller companies are automatically more capable of these, why does every company want to keep growing ? Shouldn't profit-per-employee, and finding an ideal size that lets one retail the ability to quickly react, change course, etc, be goals instead ???

Of course, profit-per-employee probably means a healthy growth in business, and as little growth in "organization" (people, overheads, etc) as possible – and manageable. But there's probably a theoretical limit to these, and the inevitable desire to scale numbers one sees in every startup thats seen some success is unwarranted at least in some cases – probably comes from trying to stick to a format, or investor pressure (same thing), or insecurity about "being small".??

If the startup, and one of its goals, is truly about making a significant impact to a business (model) or the environment or local economy or some such, of course the need for scaling acquires a different dimension.

Its still always worth a question to ask how much scale you want/need/can live with without giving up the whole idea of starting out on your own.

the 360

27 Mar

desirer. thinker. doer.

dreamer. wisher. trier. fighter.

builder. seller. doubter. surer.

finder. keeper. sharer.

seeker. giver. 

hoper. no-hoper. prayer.

fixer. better. wonderer. wanderer.

scratcher. leaner. happier. meaner.

embracer. connector. explorer.

richer. poorer.